Important Things to Know Before Taking the USMLE Step 1 Examination

USMLE Step 1 Examination

If you are preparing to take the USMLE Step 1 exam, you may be feeling stressed out, apprehensive, or even terrified of failure. One of the best things you can possibly do is educate yourself as thoroughly as possible, and the following bits of information are sure to help you do just that.

Test Format

Familiarizing yourself with the test format can help you feel more at ease when it comes time to test, and fortunately, the first part of the USMLE is pretty cut-and-dry. It consists of seven sections made up of 40 multiple choice questions each, and you’ll have a total of eight hours to finish it. You’ll get a total of 45 minutes during the test session for breaks, but if you finish a section before the allotted hour is up, you can use that time to take a break, too. It’s always a good idea to participate in the optional 15-minute tutorial just before the exam that will help you feel even more at ease.

Application Steps and Cost

To apply for the USMLE Step 1, you will need to apply through the NBME, or National Board of Medical Examiners. If you are from a country outside of the US, you need to register with the ECFMG, or Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates. You will be able to choose a test date from a number of available dates throughout the year, and as of 2018, the cost to take the USMLE Step 1 exam was $605.

The Best Time to Sit for the Exam

If you are curious about the best time to take your exam, it’s important to know that most students opt to sit for it sometime between their first and third years in medical school. You should be able to pass once you’ve passed all your basic medical science courses, and you should always take it before you start your clinical rotation. If you take it at this point, the things you’ve learned are still fresh, but you’ve also had the opportunity to take a couple extra months to study.

Passing Scores and Test Results

In order to pass the USMLE Step 1 examination, you will need to obtain a score of 192. As of 2016, the NBME reported that the average score among passing students was 225 with a standard deviation of about 20. The NBME releases scores to students each Wednesday of the year, and it takes about a month after you’ve taken the exam to get your scores. When they are available, you will receive an email advising you how to check your score online.

The USMLE Step 1 is an important step in obtaining a license to practice as a doctor in the US, and while it can be a stressful event, learning more about it will help you relax and obtain a better score. Remember that you can take this exam as many as six times in your lifetime, too. Study hard and do well in medical school, and you should have no problem obtaining the required score of 192.

How to Overcome a Bad USMLE Step 1 Examination Score

Bad USMLE Step 1 Examination Score

The US Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE) is one of the toughest examinations in existence today. About 4% of students in these programs fail the USMLE Part 1 on their first attempt, and while this can be discouraging, it is certainly not the end of the line. It is possible to retake and pass this examination if you do not allow yourself to be overcome with disappointment, work hard, and try again.

Work with Faculty

If you failed your first attempt at the USMLE Step 1 examination, which is designed to test your knowledge of the material learned in the first two years of medical school, it is vital that you work with faculty and other education specialists to figure out where you need help. Then, once you have this information, you can utilize various study methods to better familiarize yourself with the content. Through diligence and the help of those who want to see you succeed, it is possible to obtain a passing score on your second attempt.

Don’t Fall Victim to the Stigma

Many students who do not pass the exam on the first attempt feel a great deal of shame, particularly when they are the only student among a group of peers to score poorly. However, it is worth noting that students are not ostracized from their study groups or peers in these cases. In fact, your peers who have passed the exam will likely extend their knowledge and tips to help you succeed on your next attempt. Focus on learning what you need to know to provide the best patient outcomes, and never let a perceived social stigma bring you down.

Utilize a Variety of Study Methods

Often, students who do not pass the USMLE Step 1 on the first attempt are those who utilize only one or two different study methods, which can sometimes prove detrimental. Different people learn in different ways, and while some can learn everything they need to know simply by reading the material, others need to repeat it, practice it, and put it to use. Try mock exams, online study tools, flash cards, study groups, and more to give yourself access to the material from every possible angle. Make note of which method seems to provide you with the best comprehension and spend more time with it.

Keep the Facts in Mind

Finally, rather than feeling discouraged, it’s important to remember that you are not the only student who received a bad USMLE Step 1 grade. A study published in Academic Medicine looked at 129,000 students who took the exam for the first time between the years of 1993 and 2000. Though some 6% failed on the first attempt, 90% of those students ultimately graduated medical school and obtained their licensure. This means that only a very, very small percentage of students who do not initially pass the USMLE Part 1 will ultimately fail to graduate medical school.

A bad grade on your first attempt at the USMLE Part 1 can certainly be frustrating, especially if you worked hard and studied. However, there are things you can do to improve your chances of passing on the second attempt – and more than 90% of students in your position do. Utilize these tips, work hard, and focus on the ultimate goal, which is providing the best possible patient care.